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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Once More Back Into The MGM Mire

Someone is out there selling the idea that neither Lionsgate nor Summit would be paying itself for marketing and distribution under a pseudo-merger agreement with MGM.
Bullshit.
There are reasons for MGM debt holders to prefer this group or that.
Spyglass’ last 10 released films were; Get Him to the Greek, Leap Year, Invictus, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Star Trek, Four Christmases, Flash of Genius, Ghost Town, The Love Guru, Wanted
Lionsgate’s last 10 release were; Killers, Kick-Ass, Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too?, From Paris with Love, The Spy Next Door, Daybreakers, Brothers, Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire, Saw VI, More Than a Game
Sumit’s last 10 releases were; Letters to Juliet , Furry Vengeance, Remember Me, The Ghost Writer, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Astro Boy, Sorority Row, Bandslam, The Hurt Locker, The Brothers Bloom
Which business do you see as the one that can rebuilt the studio’s image enough to make it a more attractive library target?
Spyglass distributing through Sony or Paramount – pretty much the range of likely distributors for them – means that MGM/Spyglass product can have a distributor that is in the business of releasing movies full-time. It also means a distributor that has shown the ability to take a film gross over $100 million on a consistent basis. This is no small thing.
Neither Summit nor Lionsgate will be absorbed by MGM. Neither is likely to keep the current production, distribution, or marketing teams in place. So in terms of distribution and marketing, the question is, do you want Sony or Paramount selling your movies or do you want Summit or Lionsgate doing that job?
MGM will not be any more than a glorified production company no matter who they choose. No one – and no one on the horizon – wants to make the studio whole. There is too much baggage… as I have been saying forever.
MGM remains a good play for Summit because it would give them a place to put their Twilight cash and they can keep building. It’s fine for Lionsgate, so long as they don’t take on funding responsibilities and get an outside fund that allows them to make more movies, spread out their expenses, and own a piece of The Lion in the end, if things work out. Spyglass is also there for a piece of the library for pretty much doing what they have been doing for a long while.
My bet is on Spyglass with Sony distributing and, in the end, perhaps finding a way back to the MGM library itself.
Finally, despite ongoing efforts to spin Peter Jackson into some sort of leaf in the wind regarding The Hobbit… he’s always been there… he’s not fully committed… it’s not just about money… and as everyone who knows what’s going on with this situation – except for the person claiming a scoop – knows, MGM is the central problem that sent Guillermo packing. The Hobbit will happen, with Peter directing or not. But if it doesn’t happen this fall, it probably won’t happen until 2013 or 2014. Jackson does not want to leave WB hanging in the breeze for their investment to date… but there is only so far they can push the start date. Jackson has been very clear about wanting to make the previously mentioned release dates.
Yes, the legal work for whomever MGM settles on will take months. But there is a point at which the Hobbit/Bond machine can move forward if serious committments are made. Those films are the carrot. Now someone needs to figure out how to use the stick without sticking themselves in the eye, because if Hobbit does push to 2014, the entire effort to move the studio forward could fall apart and debt holders could be forced to face the harsh reality of the company’s current value.

3 Responses to “Once More Back Into The MGM Mire”

  1. Silvio Dante says:

    “My bet is on Summit with Sony distributing and, in the end, perhaps finding a way back to the MGM library itself.” – Confused, why would Summit distrib through Sony? Wouldn’t they want the fees? Do you mean Spyglass?

  2. David Poland says:

    I did, Silvio.
    Geez.
    Putting the baby down and finishing up a piece at the same time is a bad, bad idea. Learning…
    Correcting.

  3. Joe Leydon says:

    Don’t try to watch a screener with the baby, either. Especially if it’s a horror movie. Trust me: Been there, done that, bad move.

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin